At The Fencepost: March 7, 2012

Karen Abbott

by Karen Abbott
It’s been awhile since I told the story of my violin.

On Christmas Day, I found that my cherished instrument had been collecting mold along an outer wall throughout the fall. I tried and tried but couldn’t get the mold out of the case.

So I finally replaced the case and bought a new steel E-string to replace the rusted one.
Right around that time, a friend asked me to come over and tune her daughters’ school instruments in order to save her an extra trip at odd hours. I thought it’d be the perfect chance to rosin up my bow and play a little again.
We had a fun time playing at their house. I won’t say “playing together,” because we really didn’t. We couldn’t, actually, because violin, viola, and cello don’t share a clef. This makes note-reading music impossible, unless you know multiple clefs (which I don’t).
We knew some of the same songs, but we couldn’t play together.  Nevertheless, being string players, we still all played.

I don’t know what it is about string players. It seems to outside observers that we’ve become deaf to the sound of chaos. Maybe focusing intensely on one thing, like drawing the bow straight across the string, makes it difficult to play in tune.
Maybe it’s an unconscious adaptation to survive in a roomful of novices.
The resulting practice sessions and concerts are actually painful to listeners, according to the feedback I got from brothers and sisters in my early years of faithful lessons.
So when I met my friend’s children, and we found we couldn’t play any music together, we did what string players do — we just played. All three of us played whatever we felt like, in the same room and at the same time.
That’s what I mean about string players. We have an odd ability to tune out whatever is going on around us and just keep right on playing, as if no one else were even in the room.

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